Dangerous Roads-Bolivia

La Paz to Coroico (El Camino de la Muerte) 

The mini bus choked and sputtered as we left La Paz. Every seat was filled.  I was crammed against the window as we drove out of the city, climbing higher into the thin air.  As we approached the 16,000 foot pass our driver reached out and purchased a small bottle from a vendor who stood in the doorway of a broken plaster building.  As the road snaked higher, I noticed them – large black dogs sitting one after another in a row along the highway. They were spaced 20 feet apart and sat starring as we slowly drove by. I shivered at this bad omen. Reaching the pass our driver slowed, rolled down his window and dumped the contents of the bottle on the pavement, a ritual offering to the spirits for our safe drive into the valley. This highway has been called the most dangerous road in the world, El Camino de la Muerte.  As we left the pass and headed into the densely vegetated valley the road shrank to one lane with occasional pull outs for vehicles to pass each other. The road was dirt and one edge was a rock wall while  the other side dropped straight down 2,000 feet into the jungle.   White crosses marked the spots where a bus or car had gotten too close to the abyss.  It was not long until we met the first of many other vehicles coming up out of the valley. Our mini van pulled out onto the outer half circle. As I sat in my window seat I looked straight down over the wheel well as our tire sat inches from the edge of the cliff,  inches of soft dirt keeping us from crashing end over end down into the valley below.  It began to rain hard and the road turned to mud and brown rivers ran down the middle of the track. The windshield wipers on the bus stopped working. Our very young driver only drove faster as the rain increased. Two elderly Bolivian women started yelling at the driver in Spanish that I took for a plea to reduce our speed.  Tim looked over at me and said “whose idea was this anyway”?